Friday, December 31, 2010

Feature Art Friday: Ruby & the Pacific

This is Ruby, an Australian cattle dog who lived a wonderful fifteen-year-long life in Sacramento, California with people who loved her very much. This pet portrait was commissioned by the sister of the woman Ruby owned. She was unsure of a background color, but once Mary mentioned to me that Ruby loved to go to the ocean to swim or go boating, I knew a Pacific blue would be just perfect for her.

You can see other pet portraits I have painted here. I donate 20% of all of my pet portrait commission fees to 'Out of the Woods' pet rescue in Little Rock, Arkansas.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

36 things list: Thanks Santa!

I was either a very good girl this year or Santa was not paying very close attention because I got a sewing machine for Christmas! There was, however an almost instant flashback to childhood & the experience of getting a fantastic present that doesn’t travel well just before leaving town for the holidays. Sewing machines are clearly not travel-friendly gifts but I DID take the instruction manual with me to look at on the plane. No joke. You should have seen the way the woman in the next seat was looking at me.

There is a commissioned pet portrait due Friday that must be completed before I play with my new toy, but it is KILLING me for it to sit there & stare at me while I paint… good thing I am painting a VERY cute dog!

Monday, December 27, 2010

Lessons learned in 2010: Lesson 3

Most of my creative life developed when I was happy- the level of inspiration I felt seemed to be firmly tied to mood & life circumstances. I genuinely believed that I had to be in a “certain mood” to do something artistic. There was also this idea that I could absolutely not, under any circumstances be creative when I was sad, or stressed out or having a bad day. So in addition to necessitating some imaginary “creative mood”, there was also an entire list of negative emotions that had to be absent in order to be creative. No wonder I didn’t make anything for so long… looking back on it, it appears that I set myself up in some sort of self-imposed creative exile.

At some point over the last year I realized that my creativity is actually something that I can always fall back on to make myself feel better. If things aren’t going my way, I want more than anything to be in the studio, making something. I’m not saying what I make on a bad day will turn into anything other than a crumpled up scrap of paper on the floor, but for the most part it feels good to engage in the process… which is really the point, isn’t it?

Friday, December 24, 2010

Feature Art Friday: Gracie the Poodle

This pet portrait was one of the last commissions I finished for the holidays- I'm posting it on Christmas Eve because the gift-giver was so happy with it that she gifted it early. (I love it when that happens) Here's the crazy thing... when I initially saw the photo of this dog I gasped, because this little dog Gracie looks so much like another poodle I knew named Daisy. I wish I had a photo of her to show you. Daisy lived a good long healthy life but I still miss her- I thought about her the whole time I worked on the painting of Gracie.

I hear that Gracie is just as spoiled as Daisy was, which made me feel a bit better about missing Daisy. It always makes me smile to hear about a dog or cat who is loved & appreciated!

Happy holidays!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Lessons learned in 2010: Lesson 2

'A Creative Companion' by SARK
The second lesson I learned this year is one that I’ll be reminding myself of forever. It is important not only to my creative life, but life in the ‘real world’ as well. I have to learn to enjoy the process & understand that with everything there is a learning curve. Some are just a bit steeper than others. If I were to mention this to my mother, she would quite smugly report that I have been this way my whole life. If I try something new & do not figure it out very quickly, I become extremely frustrated.

More than 15 years ago, I changed my major from art to psychology when I was halfway through the upper-level classes in college. I had the opportunity to take 3 drawing classes, 3 design classes, printmaking, ceramics, technical skills for the designer, computer graphics & 1 painting class. I also took a painting class at the Arkansas Art Center a couple of years ago. What this means is that I know just enough about most art supplies to be dangerous. I attribute part of this problem to my life-long issue with expecting a first effort at anything to go well (even though it often doesn’t). I also attribute a bit of it to changing my major just when I was getting to the fun stuff & part of it to my poor memory.

I understand that there are completely self-taught artists who have never had an organized art class & who can pick up a new medium & learn it patiently. I am in awe of them & hope to be like them when I grow up.

Some of the new-to-me-mediums & products I worked with in 2010 include air-dry clay, gel mediums for mixed media projects, metal tape & alcohol ink.

This year I learned that the only way I will discover anything new (art-wise & otherwise) will be to enjoy the process, or at least accept that there will be a learning curve.

Monday, December 20, 2010

36 things list: Try something new

On Saturday afternoon one week before Christmas while everyone hurried around to buy last minute gifts & mail packages to friends & family far away, I tried something new… ice skating.  The city of Little Rock set up an ice skating rink in the River Market; complete with a hot chocolate stand & Christmas carols being piped in over loud speakers.
Please notice that I am hanging on for dear life, while Kat casually leans on the rail.
We borrowed a six-year-old, under the misguided notion that children seem to pick up these sorts of activities more quickly than adults, so she might be able to drag me around the rink. What I did not anticipate was her desire to take down an adult with her each & every time she fell.
I laughed until I cried & had to gasp to catch my breath.

I laughed until strangers stared at me as they whizzed by me on the ice.

I laughed until I had to bend over & hold my stomach, which is quite a commitment when standing on thin steel blades on a sheet of ice. 

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Lessons learned in 2010: Lesson 1

As the year comes to a close I wanted to share a few lessons I’ve learned about my creative life.

Lesson #1 concerns my newest creative venture- the blog. It’s been up & running about 6 months & I really enjoy it. It’s definitely a way to hold myself accountable- if I write that I am going to do something here, I better complete it- if I don’t, I get a text message from a cousin. True story. Honestly, I’m just more likely to accomplish a goal if I have stated it publicly, which I believe is not a trait specific to me- it’s human nature. If you want to be more likely to do something, tell someone your goal & your plan to get there. Maybe you have someone who will text/email/call you & check on your progress as well.

The most important lesson I learned regarding the blog is this: I get extremely busy around the holidays with pet portraits & should have ‘Feature Art Friday’ posts ready ahead of time. I can’t post anything from the studio this time of year because the art is a gift for someone who may or may not read my blog or be a facebook follower. I should also take more ‘in-progress’ photos of the pet portraits as they are painted, people seem to like to see them.

In 2011, the year will start off with ‘Feature Art Friday’ posts including the art painted this holiday season. Hopefully I’ll keep ahead of it throughout the year & won’t be panic-stricken in the fall when I realize that I can’t post from the studio without ruining someone’s Christmas present.

There will be additional ‘Lessons Learned’ posts over the next couple of weeks with topics including creative inspiration, trying new mediums & supportive friends.

Friday, December 10, 2010

It's all Alisa Burke's fault

I had crazy dreams last night & it’s all Alisa Burke’s fault. No, Alisa Burke is not the name of a neighbor who plays the TV too loudly… she is an artist who wrote this fantastic book about making art out of painted & repurposed canvas, among other things. All the way from California, without even meeting she has caused me to lose sleep- making me dream that I am sewing some really cool artsy pillows. I am, quite literally dreaming up art projects. True story.

It started when I read an article about Alisa's blog in ‘Artful Blogging’ which led me to read her blog, which led me to buy her book after seeing the creative projects she comes up with, which led to me asking for a sewing machine for Christmas & listing it as one of the 36 things I want to do before I turn 37. While I'm "blaming" her for things, I should also point out that her insanely imaginative sketchbook is also what caused me to add 'keep a sketchbook' to that list. Creative inspiration can be such a slippery slope…

Actually, the sewing business is noted twice on my ‘36 things to do before I turn 37’ list… ‘get a sewing machine’ is #11 & ‘learn to sew’ is #12. I forgot to mention that- I don’t really know how to sew.

Sorry I haven’t bothered to mention what a great book it is prior to this, I assumed that was implied by the fact that I’m dreaming of its contents. Canvas Remix is one of my new favorite art books… & I have A LOT of art books.

By the way, ‘Feature Art Friday’ will return in January, once I can safely post photos of the pet portraits commissioned over the last few months without worrying that I’ll ruin a holiday surprise. I’m working on finishing up the last 3 holiday commissions: a lhasa apso, a poodle & a yorkie. Painting during my waking hours & sewing in my sleep.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

36 things to do before I turn 37

This project first came to my attention while I was knee-deep in reading art blogs back in the spring- when the thought of having a blog of my own still caused me to have heart palpitations. I saw Michelle Allen's list on her blog- I love her vibrant quirky art. How could I not participate in this project, especially when I realized that I share a birthday with such an amazing artist? It also doesn't hurt that I love to make a list.

Although mine is very much based on this new creative path that I have started on over the last 2 years, you could make one of these for anything that means something to you... things to do with your family, for instance. If you decide to make one, please share- I would love to see it. You could add a link to it in a comment or email it & I would very much enjoy reading it.

Judging by my tardiness in making my '36 things' list, I probably should have included something about ending procrastination, but it didn't make the cut this year. Maybe next year. :)

Monday, December 6, 2010

Flying cats & friends in pet rescue

Last year I got a jig saw for my birthday & immediately felt the need to make some dogs & cats, most of which have wings & are wearing jewelry. (Does this happen to anyone who gets a new power tool? Just me? Okay…) I had so much fun making these colorful wall sculptures; I get really excited when I sell one. A few have sold at pet rescue events and I just sold my second one on Etsy- it was the orange one pictured above. I have a few others to list this week & then it will be time for the next litter.

The customer who bought it took the time to write me a nice note thanking me for being involved with pet rescue. It made me smile to know that this busy person whom I have never met, this woman who is probably very busy with the holidays & her family took the time to say something kind to a stranger in life but friend in pet rescue. It turns out that she has not one… not two… but THREE rescue cats!

So let me say this… thank YOU Julie, for having a houseful of rescue cats. I hope you enjoy your purchase as much as I enjoyed your kind words!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Meeting myself coming & going

I'm meeting myself coming & going these days- half the time not even knowing which direction I should be facing. This is probably the reason I felt a little sad for this bus facing backwards on a trailer. He looks a little dejected, doesn't he? Who could blame him... he can't see where he is going or exactly how he is getting there.

If he had an address I would send him a postcard telling him that he isn't alone... right know I know just how he is feeling.

There are lots of great creative ideas rolling around in my head & not much time to see to them this close to the holidays with my full-time job, Christmas decorating, shopping, family obligations & the commissions I'm working on but I'm still thankful for ALL of it. It will all get taken care of, one way or another. In the mean time, I'll just try to keep heading in the right direction.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Being thankful for a burglar

The kitten showed up in December of 2009, he would sit and peer in the window. He would come and go most of the winter, often uninterested in the food we offered. We assumed that he lived with one of the neighbors. When he didn’t show up for several days in a row, I hoped that his family had decided to keep him safely inside.

After 6 days he reappeared, barely able to stand. I drove to the vet with the crate in the passenger seat so I could keep one hand on him, while I cried and apologized for assuming he had a home.

Two rounds of antibiotics later, Ron Burgundy could sit up to eat and started venturing around the house. He chose my art studio as his favorite place to spend time. As his health improved his personality started to show itself and we became aware of a little problem.

Ron Burgundy is a cat burglar.

To date, he has stolen the following items:

1 paintbrush- he makes repeated efforts to steal this paintbrush, once even making it off the studio table and all the way down the stairs before I could catch him and retrieve it. I think I might put one in his Christmas stocking. If he is willing to work that hard for it I think he deserves one to call his very own.

1 magnet- bearing a photo of Maisy, my dog. I’m assuming his plan was to make the magnet into some sort of voodoo doll. Voodoo dog. Sorry.

1 recently purchased silver earring.

1 drink coaster… green, beaded and shaped like a frog- removed from the desk and relocated to the door mat by the back door.

1 bra- I am happy to report that nobody was wearing it at the time.

1 roll of toilet paper. He actually rolled it out of the downstairs bathroom and I watched it bounce off the cat door that leads to the litter box in a closet. Accidentally, I’m sure… but I appreciated the irony anyway.

This year I have many things to be thankful for... but I have to say that other than the obvious things... family, friends, health, a good job... the thing I'm most thankful for is Ron Burgundy, who makes me laugh every day of my life. Even if he is a cat burglar.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Meow Bark Mini Art: Bad Louie

I love painting close-ups on 6" square canvas- I call them 'Meow Bark Minis'.  I often paint them in one sitting... perfect for an artist with the attention span of a gnat! Because the canvas is 1 1/2" thick, they look great sitting on a shelf as well as hanging on a wall. This is a new size that isn't listed on the website, but the minis are $40. This pet portrait features Bad Louie, a cat I actually know. He is the smallest in a house with three other cats, including Oliver but don't let the size fool you- Louie has earned his name & wears it well on his collar, which is covers with teeny tiny skulls & crossbones.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Why we spell B-A-T-H

'Anybody who doesn't know what soap tastes like never washed a dog' -F.P. Jones

The word B-A-T-H is never uttered aloud in our home, it is only spelled. Failure to comply with this rule causes Maisy to leap up (sometimes out of a sound sleep) bolt up the stairs, jump on the bed & remain as still as a statue in an effort to camouflage herself on the brightly colored comforter until the coast is clear. 

This plan to run up the stairs to the level of the house where 'bathing offenses' occur & to jump on the bed instead of hiding under it further illustrate my point: it is a good thing my sweet rescue dog has her looks going for her. I still love her. She forgives me my short-comings; it's only reasonable that I return the favor. With a face like this, how could I not?

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Who doesn't love a cat in eyeglasses?

Each season, the local library holds a book sale where old books are sold for almost nothing & the money funds library programs. I LOVE the library book sale & picked up some great loot for a bargain total of $3.50. When I start using it in art projects I’ll post photos.

On this trip, while waiting on a friend who had disappeared into the precarious stacks of books, I noticed a new mixed media piece. It really took my breath away.

According to the story, the art features Dorothy Haltom, a longtime library volunteer who walked 6 blocks to volunteer hundreds of hours over several decades. She was known as “the librarian” in her apartment complex & read as many as five books each week using a magnifier in her later years.

She died in June of 2009 at the age of 92. I’m terribly sorry that I never met her at the library. I would love to have talked to her about books. It’s clear from the art, they accompanying story & the volunteer who came up to speak to me that she was loved & admired by everyone.
Who doesn't love a cat in eyeglasses?

Monday, November 15, 2010

This weekend in the studio: where's waldo?

Yes, this is what it has come to... in order to prove that I am still actually working, I have photographed a "Where's Waldo" of sorts so you could see (sort of) what has been going on in the studio.

Let me explain. I'm very busy this time of year with pet portraits but I can't actually post them on the blog, because that could ruin a holiday surprise... so you are looking at bits & pieces of 3 paintings I finished this weekend.

Look on the bright side, in January I'll have all sorts of photos & 'art-in-progress' shots for you. We all need a little something to look forward to after the holidays, right?

Friday, November 12, 2010

I love a gaggle

My office is close to downtown Little Rock but situated near bike trails, soccer fields & a park next to the Arkansas River. In the spring & autumn the Canadian geese take a break here on the way to or from their seasonal adventures.

I have found myself stopped in the middle of the road waiting on them to waddle across on than one occasion.

For the record, they don't really get in a rush.

A coworker told me today that she was recently sitting at her desk & looked out the window to witness several of them waddling through the parking lot. I can only assume they were considering leasing the office space that recently came up for rent next door. What kind of business might a gaggle of geese manage?

This morning I stopped to photograph them in the field by my office- I want to paint them, but with my own artistic twist... maybe a hat or a scarf... or a tutu. You just never really know.

As I readied my camera, I heard two car doors close behind me as a gentleman & his son approached the field with a bag of corn. The son who was maybe 13 or 14 went right to work feeding the geese as his father encouraged him patiently & paused to explain to me that his son attends The Academy (which I know to be a private school for children with special needs) & they had made a morning ritual of driving around the neighborhood to find the geese & feed them on the way to school.

The geese have always made me smile & I look forward to their arrival to herald in the change of seasons, but now I have this great story to be reminded of each time I see them. I can't help but think that this young man will always remember it. I know I will.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Why this dog makes my mouth water

With each pet portrait commission I receive, there are certain details that always need to be finalized. What photo we are using, the canvas size, background, etc. I always like to hear a bit about the pet, especially the rescues. Simon is a rescue dog & as you may notice, has been blessed with the ability to pout. That's right... Simon can stick out his bottom lip.

I was on the phone several weeks ago with David, who was ordering a painting of Simon for his wife. At some point in the conversation he gave me his email address & I realized who I was speaking with- David Stobaugh… Stoby’s Restaurant… the best cheese dip in the world.

My mouth started watering.

I was suddenly time-warped into 1993 & my first taste of that cheese dip as a college freshman. As evidence that this blog post is not a paid advertisement for Stoby’s restaurant I will point out that I blame Stoby’s cheese dip for the dreaded “freshman 15”, those pounds packed on by so many college students. I suppose it might not happen if you restrain yourself from eating the aforementioned cheese dip by the gallon with your closest friends. I’ll never know, will I?

Every single time I sat down to work on that painting, my mouth started watering… not just for the cheese dip, but also the strawberry cake.  David’s wife Patti, owner of PattiCakes Bakery (and recipient of the artwork that has now become an afterthought in my love letter to cheese dip) makes the BEST strawberry cake. I finished that painting in record time- if I hadn’t, my recently purchased Banana Republic slacks that fit just right might have become a casualty of my love affair with the cheese dip… did I mention you can buy it at the grocery store in 6 states?

At some point I had the opportunity to speak to Patti about Simon & I asked how she got him to pout for the photo.
"He was waiting for a treat... he loves cheese."
Of course he does.
And he lives with the Stobaugh's.
Lucky dog.
I hope he hasn't purchased any new slacks lately.
You may see other pet portraits on the Meow Bark Art website.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

The thunder chicken & the rug

We recently purchased new area rugs for the house & I wanted to send a photo to my mom. Unfortunately for me, the rugs were purchased during a storm & Maisy is a “thunder chicken”… my official term for those who are fearful of storms. It makes me sad that she was homeless because her remedy for making it through any weather event is to attach herself to me or any other nearby human. I thought I might be able to take a quick photo (of just the rug) to send to mom before the storm got to the dog.

As happens on so many occasions in my life… I thought wrong.

Maisy enters, stage left:

“Hi, sorry to ‘photo-bomb’ but have you noticed that it’s storming? Don’t I look cute? I’d look even cuter if you would sit on the couch so I could climb up on the back of it & try to sit on your head. I think that would make us both feel better.”
“Putting a few treats in my bowl to get me off the rug & out of the photo will only distract me momentarily. I’m keeping my tail in the photo in protest.
While I eat the treats.
Yes, I’m multi-tasking.”
“Whew, barely made this one. Sorry I startled you. I’m not trying to belabor my point here… but did you know IT’S STORMING?”